Though her nickname is “The Phenom,” Ketlen Vieira is actually inspired by another UFC star.
Vieira, an unbeaten fighter with five finishes over seven wins, successfully debuted in the UFC with a split decision victory over Kelly Faszholz in October. Then she decided to move to Rio de Janeiro to have better training ahead of her UFC on FOX 24 clash with Ashlee Evans-Smith in Kansas City.
"I made this decision to move to Rio de Janeiro to work hard, inside and outside the camp,” Vieira told MMA Fighting, "and that will help me evolve as a fighter."
Training alongside UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo at Nova Uniao, Vieira looks up to her teammate as an inspiration as she seeks to make history in the bantamweight division.
"It’s an extra pressure, but I can handle it,” Vieira says of being the only athlete from her team in the UFC women's bantamweight division. "I know I still have a lot to evolve. Aldo is not only a teammate, but also a fellow fighter from Manaus, and I put in my head that I will be the female version of Jose Aldo. I’m humble, and I will work hard to get there."
Aldo has already made history in the sport, and Vieira admits that she needs better performances if she wants to be compared to someone like him.
"I felt the pressure in my UFC debut because I was used to competing in small events in Manaus, and going from that to the biggest MMA promotion in the world adds so much pressure,” Vieira admits. "I took a huge amount of pressure off of my shoulders after the fight. I was able to debut with a win, and I believe that now I’ll perform better and impose my game.
"It did affect my performance because I was too afraid of taking risks and getting rocked or something like that, so I just did what I was used to doing,” she continued. "I used my judo to take her down and did what I do best and don’t expose myself. ‘Dede' (Pederneiras) was yelling at me to go to half guard but I wasn’t confident, I thought she would sweep me. I fought to win, I really fought to guarantee the victory."
Feeling more confident as she approaches her second UFC bout on Saturday night, Vieira believes Evans-Smith is a better match-up for her.
"I think she’s a tough athlete,” said the undefeated Brazilian. "There’s no easy fight in the UFC. The best fighters in the world are in the UFC, but it’s a fight. I think that Faszholz is physically stronger, but I don’t know for sure. I’ll find out when the fight starts. But he’s a tough athlete, ranked in the top 15, so I’m ready. It’s a good opportunity for me to enter the bantamweight ranking.”
With back-to-back decision victories in her last MMA bouts after five straight finishes in her first fights, Vieira has focused on fixing her mistakes and shocking Evans-Smith.
"I trained more my striking because I didn’t do well in the first fight,” Vieira said. "Not that I don’t know how to strike, but it was the nerves of making my debut. I focused on that, and some details on the ground. I’ll surprise her. I think she’s expecting me to do the same thing, but I’m ready for everything."